Badger’s Bible Project – Ruth


Yes, kids, for the first time we get an entire book of the Bible in one post! How exciting! Of course the entire “book” is only three pages, but there you are.

I will say at the outset that this book surprised me. There’s no god, there’s no angels, there’s no genocide, there’s no smiting. There’s just a lonely, middle-aged woman and her daughter-in-law trying to make a life for themselves, and that’s far more interesting, inspiring and heartwarming than anything I’ve read so far (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much).

We begin with Naomi, a woman who lives in Moab. She’s married and has two adult sons (Mahlon and Chillion), who have married women named Ruth and Oprah. So, apparently the divine Ms. O is older than we’d all suspected. Anyhow, Naomi’s husband dies (Ruth 1:3), and then this:

“Then both Mahlon and Chillion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband” – Ruth 1:5

How unpleasant, and though that’s not something most of us have experienced, I think we can all empathize. What a horrible thing that must be to go through, especially since, as there’s no mention of grandchildren, the sons probably died fairly young. From what I can piece together from my somewhat fragmentary knowledge of ancient Jewish marriages, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the sons were in their mid-teens at the time of their deaths, which would be really horrible for their mother.

So Naomi, having lost her two children and her husband, now decides it’s time to leave Moab and return home. She still has her dead sons’ widows hanging around, and doesn’t want them to feel obligated, so she tells Ruth and Oprah that they are welcome to get on with their lives. Oprah agrees, but Ruth doesn’t.

“But Ruth said:
‘Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your god, my god.
Where you die, I will die,
And there be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.'” – Ruth 1:16 – 17

Well, it’s a bit emo and a bit co-dependent, but frankly it’s also kind of lovely. It seems like it’s Ruth saying that she’s with Naomi through thick or thin, even if it means living in a strange land, with new people and worshiping a new god. But is there something else? I don’t know about you, but my third thought upon reading this was, “Lesbians!” Turns out I’m not the only one. I doubt this is meant to be the case. I think it’s just the sort of weird, flowery language of ancient Hebrew by way of Greek and early modern English, but I won’t say it’s outside the realm of possibility. Of course for this to be an accurate view, you have to overlook Ruth spending much of the rest of the book falling in love with a man.

Anyhow, Naomi and Ruth arrive back at Naomi’s hometown where people are pleased to see her, but she seems understandably bitter.

“But she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
“‘I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?'” – Ruth 1:20 – 21

Couple of things here. First off, according to my Bible, the name “Mara” means “bitter”, which was a surprise since I thought it meant “unconvincing snake thing“. Second, yeah, I bet she’s bitter! Her husband and sons are both dead, and she’s too old to have any more (Ruth 1:11). I can well understand her bitterness.

Anyhow, it seems that they arrived at her hometown, Bethlehem, just in time for the local barely harvest. Ruth heads out to glean some of the heads of grain from the fields owned by a man named Boaz. He sees her working, and seems quite taken by her, though he starts by referring to her as “my daughter” (Ruth 2:8), which is kind of creepy given what happens later. I assume it’s just a reasonably subtle way of showing that he’s quite a bit older than she is.

He then starts being nice to her, and she’s confused about this, and asks him why.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.
“‘The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given to you by the lord god of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.'” – Ruth 2:11 – 12

Now that’s something that I like. He recognizes that he’s standing before a good and decent woman who made real sacrifices to care for someone who wasn’t a part of her blood family. I like that. I like that a lot.

Ruth likes it, too, and seems to be developing an interesting Boaz, who then does this:

“And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.
“‘Also let grain from the bunches fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.'” – Ruth 2:15 – 16

So everyone seems happy at this state of affairs, including Naomi, who is very aware that Boaz, who is a relative of hers (Ruth 2:20), might be helpful to them in restoring some stability. She actively encourages Ruth to pursue him, saying:

“‘Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor: but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
“‘Then it shall be, when he lies down, taht you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.'” – Ruth 3:3 – 4

Ruth does this, and Boaz seems quite taken by her behavior. He even makes it clear to all and sundry that in fact nothing happened between them. I kind of like that idea. I find the notion of preserving a woman’s virtue to be very quaint and not out of place here.

Things kind of go from there. Boaz wants to marry her, but knows there’s someone else ahead of him (according to the law), who gets first dibs. He sorts this out by making the other man an offer he won’t accept and then the other man makes Boaz an offer he can’t refuse. The two marry and, unusually for a Bible story, everyone lives happily ever after.

I found that this Bible story was quite decent and enjoyable, once I got past the dense language. At it’s heart it’s about family and love and that’s something that hasn’t generally existed in the Bible in a positive way. It’s also interesting to see that Ruth was able to be accepted as a convert to Judaism, because it’s my understand that that sort of thing was fairly rare back in the day and can cause problems even now.

We end the book on the birth of child to Ruth and Boaz; a child that Naomi helps mother like he was her own.

“Also the neighbor woman gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” – Ruth 4:17

Hmmm…Is that perhaps the David, of whom even I, an atheist, have heard? Perhaps. Tune in next time for the first part of the First Book of Samuel, the first Biblical book to have an official sequel!

When is a Christian Not a Christian?


Not a true Christian.

When he’s Anders Breivik. He says he’s a Christian, and fundamentalist one at that. A “Christianist” as Andrew Sullivan calls him. But according to the Fox News crowd, he’s not a Christian, because Christians don’t go around shooting up people (well, unless they’re Scott Roeder), and detonating terrorist bombs (well, unless they’re Eric Rudolph). Actually, I’m inclined to agree with them. Anyone who goes around killing people is not a true Christian in the sense that they haven’t absorbed the whole “do unto others” and forgiveness thing. They’re especially not true Christians if they kill people in the name of Jesus. This applies not only to Breivik, Roeder and Rudolph, but also to historical terrorism as practiced and preached by many of the Popes, kings, queens, emperors, Crusaders and the like.

Not a true Muslim.

So I’ll agree and I’ll stop calling him a Christian, but only if the same people who get their panties in a bunch about people calling him a Christian also stop referring to terrorists like the ones who attacked us on 9/11 and hit London on 7/7 as “Muslims”. After all, they aren’t true Muslims. The Muslim faith preaches that Allah is all-compassionate and all-forgiving. It explicitly states you shouldn’t make war against the innocent. Saying that it’s ok to go around killing large numbers of people in the name is Islam is no more mainstream than it is to say that it’s ok to kill large numbers of people in the name of Christianity.

So if Breivik wasn’t a true Christian, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, then the various terrorists in the al-Qaeda vein aren’t true Muslims.

Badger’s Bible Project – Judges 9:1 – 12:15


Well, I bet you thought you’d never see one of these again! What can I say? I spent the day working on my Judaism homework for my religions class and got inspired. So here we are. And for the record, the hard part of these is not writing. It’s actually having to read the Bible, the worst, most obnoxious book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read Anthem.

This portion of Judges begins with the rise of Abimelech. Now he’s an unsavory character who decides he wants to take the throne. He does this by wading through the sort of rivers of blood we’ve come to expect from the Bible. He kills all of his brothers (seventy of them), bar one, a fellow named Jotham who is able to hide from the wrath of Abimelech. He tries to warn the people that supporting Abimelech is a somewhat bad idea. They ignore him and make Abimelech king.

Abimelech is clearly a wicked, evil man. Naturally God won’t allow him to remain on the throne that represents his kingdom on Earth, no sir! This is a man who killed his own family to get to the top. If this were a crappy fantasy novel he’d be known as Abimelech Kinslayer, or something equally pretentious and stupid. So of course God doesn’t want this man ruling and decides to do something about it right quick!

“After Abimelech had reigned over Israel for three years…” – Judges 9:22

Ok, so perhaps God’s eye was on the sparrow at the time.

Anyhow, God finally acts against Abimelech and of course a war ensues. Naturally. Abimelech behaves like you’d expect. He goes around raping and pillaging, slaughtering civilians and butchering entire populations. That shows he a bad guy. Unlike, say, Joshua who went around raping and pillaging, slaughtering civilians and butchering entire populations but did so because God wanted him to. That’s how you know he was moral!

He's not quite dead!

Eventually a woman fatally wounds Abimelech who has one of his toadies off him so that no one will say he was killed by a woman. Which of course everyone does. Whatever. Anyhow, here’s the moral we’re supposed to learn from this:

“Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers.” – Judges 9:56

Excuse me? Excuse me?! God repays this wickedness by allowing this man to be on the throne for three years, then lets him go on a killing rampage through the Levant, and this is is some sort of punishment against Abimelech?! I’m very confused here. Surely this would be more of a punishment against the several thousand people he had killed? That also ignores the fact that the sin Abimelech committed wasn’t against the people or against his seventy brothers, but rather against Abimelech’s father. Gotta love Bible morality.

Anyhow, moving on we come to a jolly story about a fellow named Jephthah. Yeah, there’s a name that doesn’t have it’s teeth in. He’s born of a harlot, from what I can tell, l but goes on to great things, eventually becoming a great military leader. At one point he decides to make a promise to assure victory for his side.

“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If you will indeed deliver the peoples of Ammon into my hands,
“then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30 – 31

Well, there’s no way that could possibly backfire. So let’s see what happens, shall we?, when Mr J comes back home.

Jephthah, about to have a very awkward conversation.

“When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timberells and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her had neither son nor daughter.
“And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it!'” – Judges 11:34 – 35

Well, what the hell was this idiot expecting? Was he keeping chickens in his house, and expecting one of those to come out joyously greeting him? Cows, maybe? Most likely he had slaves, and perhaps expected one of them to come running to say hello, which is a pretty grim thought all on its own. Instead out comes his only child and his reaction is not, “Oh, crap! You have to die, you poor child! My heart weeps for you!” Instead its “Well, my life sucks!” What a prick. A stupid, bloodthirsty, prick.

As for his daughter? Well, her reaction is interesting.

“So she said to him, ‘My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.’
“Then she said to her father, ‘Let this thing be done for me; let me wander alone for two months, that I might go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.’
“So he said, ‘Go.’ And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains.” – Judges 11:36 – 38

“Bewailed her virginity”?! What the fuck?! Her own father is about to butcher her for God and her first thought is, “Well, I guess I’m not going to be getting laid now.” I mean, look, I like sex an awful lot, but I think in that case my least reaction would be “I don’t want to die a virgin”. I think it would be “A two month head start? Hot damn! How far is it to China?” And seriously, if I was that concerned that I wasn’t going to get laid, I’d find the nearest Israelite shepherd boy and take him to the Promised Land. It reminds me of something Pauline Kael once wrote about the potential virgin sacrifice in Dragonslayer, where she wondered why the young maiden in question didn’t work with the hero to get herself disqualified on technical grounds.

But this girl is apparently as stupid as her father, for rather than fucking the nearest shepherd boy and making for China, she instead goes back home to be murdered. Possibly she’s hoping that God will pull a divine “You been punk’d!” as he did with Abraham and Isaac. If so, she’s seriously out of luck as he father lives up to his promise and murders her for God.

Well, how delightful.

This raises the question of exactly why God let him go through with it. Perhaps God wanted to teach Jephthah a lesson about making unwise promises? Perhaps he really wanted the girl dead? Perhaps he just didn’t care? No matter what his reason, the fact that he let it happen adds further evidence to the fact that, as far as fictional characters go, God is about one of the most evil there is, especially since he knew what Mr J would see upon returning home (omniscient, remember?). But he let it happen anyhow. What a charmer.

But lest you think we’re done with Jephthah, think again. He goes back on the road, killing as he goes. Eventually he runs afoul of a group called the Ephramites. When they try to escape from him he sets up a simple little trap. Anyone who can successfully say the word “Shibboleth” is clearly not an Ephramite, as they pronounce it as “Sibboleth”. Indeed. Now it could just be me, but let’s say I’m an Ephramite and I see my friends going forth and trying to say “Shibboleth” and screwing it up. I think I’d spend the next several days learning how to make the “sh” sound. Maybe some of them do that and get through, but most of them don’t. How many?

Forty-two thousand.

Careless talk may indeed cost lives, but it’s pretty clear that even a basic speech impediment, while it might make for great cinema, can be fatal as well.

Next time! We finish up this horrible book with the story of the Bible’s biggest moron, Samson!

A Good Summary, I Feel


Click to embiggen!

Why Do the Faithful Avoid Church?


How many Christians do you know? Me, I know several. My mom, one of my friends, pretty much all of my extended family. They all consider themselves to be Christians. Yet here’s the interesting part: very few of them actually attend church on a regular basis. Oh, they might pop in for Christmas Eve services or Easter, but otherwise? They don’t go every Sunday. They don’t even appear to go on other days of the week.

Turns out they aren’t atypical. According to an article on Slate, a large number of Christians don’t actually attend church and the fun part is they say they do. Yes, they lie (bear false witness?), and say they attend church regularly, but don’t.

What’s up with this? Why do people lie about going to church? I think, and others seem to agree, that what’s happening is that people are constantly told that to be a good person, you must attend church. The people who lie about going know they are good people and want to appear as good people, so they figure a little white lie to firm up the image of them as a good person isn’t a big deal.

I think there are also a lot of people out there who really don’t believe in God anymore, but can’t quite take the step of viewing themselves as atheists. They certainly don’t want anyone else to know they don’t believe anymore, so they lie and exaggerate and claim to be religious and claim to go to church when they aren’t and don’t.

It’s an interesting disconnect, but one that I expect won’t last much longer. America is becoming more and more secular and in time we won’t have so many people feeling the need to pretend. They’ll discover the real freedom that comes with being true to themselves.

I Think I Just Threw Up in My Mouth


So quick question for you all. What’s the most persecuted majority in this country? That’s right. Christians.

What a horrible little trailer for a horrible-looking little movie. Needless to say this is one I won’t be watching. I thought about doing one of my enjoyable little point-by-point refutations, explaining how, no, not all the Founders were Christian, and atheists don’t hate God, because that’s like hating the Tooth Fair, but fuck it. It’s not worth the effort.

I will say, however, that I’m sick of this “poor little us” routine from a majority group that consists of better than 80% of the American population. Jerkasses.

Subtle Satire


Also, why is there a silent “b” in “subtle”? I’ll wonder that rather than ponder the fact that many Christians would nod along with this video and say, “That’s absolutely right!”